Classical Music and Human Values


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  • Western culture has undeniable ties to ancient Greece and Rome
    Music of this time has gradually been rediscovered – it was suppressed by the early Christian church, whose values did not match with those of the Roman Empire.
    Theatre, secular festivals, pagan ceremonies were all ignored and records were put away
    Music had magical powers (read PowerPoint)
    Used in religious ceremonies
    Ceremony of Dionysus and to accompany poetry
    Doctrine of Ethos
    Greek writers believed that music possessed moral qualities and could affect character and behavior
    Aristotle wrote “Music, imitates the passions or states of the soul, such as gentleness, anger, courage, temperance, and their opposites. Music that imitates a certain passion arouses that same passion in the listener. Habitual listening to music that rouses ignoble passions distorts a person’s character. In short, the wrong kind of music makes the wrong kind of person, and the right kind tends to make the right kind of person.”
    Plato’s Republic (380 BCE)
    Educational components should be balanced between gym and music
    Too much music made a man effeminate or neurotic, too much gym made him uncivilized, violent, and ignorant
    Argument that still goes on today.
    Rome emulated music of ancient Greece and then the church took over…
    Play piece: Based on Ancient Greek modes played on Lyre and Kithara – ancient string instruments.
  • End – Skipping many centuries where the church dominated a large part of Western Classical music
  • Mid to late 18th Century
    Cosmopolitan age
    Rulers promoted social reform
    Expanding middle class and a pursuit of learning
    Modern audience
    Opening of music halls – not just in the hands of the rich or the church
    Music publishing that catered to amateurs
    “The language of music should be universal, that is, not limited by national boundaries; music should be noble as well as entertaining; it should be expressive within the bounds of decorum; and it should be “natural” – free of needless technical complications and capable of immediately pleasing any sensitive listener”- A History of Western Music
  • Peer Gynt
    Evokes thoughts of the region – highly influenced by nature, folk song, Norwegian nationalism
  • We’ve already touched on the subject of impressionism – but I want to now relate it to music at the time, because they were all incredibly interconnected – music, literature, art
    Moving farther away from sacred and church based music – though liturgical text was still being used, it wasn’t in the same vain
    Claude Debussy
    Did not seek to express deeply felt emotion or tell a story but instead his music should evoke a mood, an aesthetic, an atmosphere
    Anyone want to take a stab at what I mean when I’m talking about aesthetics?
    is a branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of beauty, art, and taste, and with the creation and appreciation of beauty.[1] It is more scientifically defined as the study of sensory or sensori-emotional values, sometimes called judgments of sentiment and taste.[2] More broadly, scholars in the field define aesthetics as "critical reflection on art, culture and nature."[3][4] Aesthetics is related to axiology, a branch of philosophy, and is closely associated with the philosophy of art.[5] Aesthetics studies new ways of seeing and of perceiving the world. (Wikipedia)
    Globally influenced – not just from other countries in Europe, but from Japanese gamelon that he heard at the 1889 Paris exposition
    Social and political values (Grove)
    Two other meanings of Impressionism circulated in the late 19th century. One was an association with women. This came not only from the importance of nature, leisure, sensuality and idealism in the aesthetic
    gradual acceptance of Impressionist art reflected the desire of the middle class to share in the old aristocracy’s way of life. This gave rise to the popular definition of Impressionism as an aesthetic of ‘dreaming and the far away’, of escape
    MUSIC – Arabesque 1 Debussy
  • Going to focus heavily on this period in the early 2oth century both with Satie and Stravinsky
    Anti- Impressionist but not necessarily anti – Debussy
    As opposed to the “escape” of impressionism. Dadaism was much more political - It rejected the Bourgeois, government, war
    Eric Satie
    Associated with impressionism but moving in a totally different direction
    “Perhaps only Satie, among French composers of the time, rejected Impressionism completely. With humour and irony he attempted to rid music of its literary and painterly associations, setting the stage for the neo-classicism of the 1920s.” (Grove Online)
    Paris had arguably been the classical music capital of the world since the advent of musical Impressionism in the late 19th century. One of its practitioners, Erik Satie, collaborated with Picasso and Cocteau in a mad, scandalous ballet called Parade. First performed by the Ballets Russes in 1917, it succeeded in creating a scandal but in a different way than Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps had done almost 5 years earlier. This was a ballet that was clearly parodying itself, something traditional ballet patrons would obviously have serious issues with (Wikipedia)
    Neo- Classicism leaving the lushness of the impressionist world and going back to the simplistic qualities of the classical form
    MUSIC – Gnossienne no 1 [gŋ no si En]

  • Diaghilev (a Russian art critic as well as the ballet's impresario) commented that the scandal was "just what I wanted
    Was it intended? Did Stravinsky and Nijinsky know that this would happen?
    Authenticity was questionable:
    Some scholars have questioned the traditional account, particularly concerning the extent to which the riot was caused by the music, rather than by the choreography and/or the social and political circumstances. Stravinsky scholar Richard Taruskin has written an article about the premiere, entitled "A Myth of the Twentieth Century," in which he attempts to demonstrate that the traditional story of the music provoking unrest was largely concocted by Stravinsky himself in the 1920s after he had published the score. At that later date, Stravinsky was constructing an image of himself as an innovative composer to promote his music, and he revised his accounts of the composition and performances of The Rite of Spring to place a greater emphasis on a break with musical traditions and to encourage a focus on the music itself in concert performances (Wikipedia)
    Further performances were greeted with total acceptance…
  • Social and political happenings at the time “One can see the implosion of industrialization and expansion of world power of the thirties echoed in the creative innovations of period artists. “ (T. Reynolds,
    Great depression
    Multi (Trans) Media Artist
    Worked in multiple mediums
    Performance Art
    the piece actually consists of the sounds of the environment that the listeners hear while it is performed
    Zen Buddhism
    In 1951, Cage visited the anechoic chamber at Harvard University. An anechoic chamber is a room designed in such a way that the walls, ceiling and floor absorb all sounds made in the room, rather than reflecting them as echoes. Such a chamber is also externally sound-proofed. Cage entered the chamber expecting to hear silence, but he wrote later, "I heard two sounds, one high and one low. When I described them to the engineer in charge, he informed me that the high one was my nervous system in operation, the low one my blood in circulation."[13] Cage had gone to a place where he expected total silence, and yet heard sound. "Until I die there will be sounds. And they will continue following my death. One need not fear about the future of music."[14] The realization as he saw it of the impossibility of silence led to the composition of 4′33″.
    QUESTION – Thoughts? Is this Music?
  • In discussing the musical movements of the past – it was relatively easy to define the religious, social, political, etc… movements that defined the art and music being made at the time. In the late 20th century/ early 21st century – those issues are all less defined, especially in America. Maybe now do we look more to technology as a defining idiom?
    While classical music CD sales continue to fall dramatically, the on-line environment trades at markedly higher levels. As The New York Times (Midgette, 2006) reported
    “By conventional wisdom, classical music accounts for 3 to 4 percent of overall recording industry sales. But on Apple iTunes, the leading site for music downloads, classical music represents 12 percent of all sales”
    Are systems like this working better because of the age of the music, easier copyright laws?
    Web 2.0
    The term Web 2.0 is commonly associated with web applications that facilitate interactive information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design,[1] and collaboration on the World Wide Web. A Web 2.0 site gives its users the free choice to interact or collaborate with each other in a social media dialogue as creators (prosumer) of user-generated content in a virtual community, in contrast to websites where users (consumer) are limited to the passive viewing of content that was created for them. Examples of Web 2.0 include social-networking sites, blogs, wikis, video-sharing sites, hosted services, web applications, mashups and folksonomies.
    Is this an environment though that fosters new compositions or just the creative re-use of old?
    Loss of patronage – government funding
    MUSIC – John Adams Dr. Atomic premiered at SFO 2005 –about “the bomb” and matter
    Video 1
  • Classical Music and Human Values

    1. 1. + Classical Music and Human Values An appreciation of western music and it’s relationship to human values throughout history and today.
    2. 2. + The Medieval World  In Greek mythology music was thought to have divine powers.  Performed by gods and demigods  Heal sickness, purify the body and mind, and work miracles  A part of religious ceremonies  Ancient Greece  Judaism  Christianity  A part of education  Contained multiple ethnical/cultural elements  Byzantine  Celtic  Arabic  Hindu  Hebraic  And more… Music in Ancient Greece and Rome “Music, imitates the passions or states of the soul, such as gentleness, anger, courage, temperance, and their opposites. Music that imitates a certain passion arouses that same passion in the listener. Habitual listening to music that rouses ignoble passions distorts a person’s character. In short, the wrong kind of music makes the wrong kind of person, and the right kind tends to make the right kind of person.” -Aristotle
    3. 3. + Music in the Middle Ages  Chant  Tropes  Sequences  Liturgical Drama  Goliard Songs & Conductus  Chanson de geste  Pastoral Songs SACRED SECULAR  Jongleurs  Troubadours & Trouvères  Minnesinger  Meistersinger  Musical prayer  Focus on text (phrase, punctuation & syntax)  Biblical and varied in form for Holidays  Wine, women and satire  Could straddle a vague line between sacred and secular  Based on poetry  For dancing  Love was a major theme
    4. 4. + Enlightenment - 18th Century Europe  Challenged established thought and behavior  Religion  Valued individual faith  Practical morality over the institution of the church  Philosophy and Science  Emphasis on reasoning  Study of the human mind, emotions, social relations…  Social Behavior  Natural instead of artificial Reason and knowledge could solve social and practical problems  Musical life reflected the cosmopolitan culture  A “European” musical sound  Music not limited by national boundaries  Comical opera  French-style ballet  The Classic period  Consistent high standard, noble simplicity, form, seriousness. VALUES MUSIC
    5. 5. + Nationalism  GERMANY  Bach Revival  Interest in folklore  Wagner and the supremacy of German music  CENTRAL EUROPE  Again, a connection with folklore and folksong  Nature and the landscape of the region  Still influenced by other European composers  RUSSIA  Often based in folksong  Full of national idioms  Musorgsky, Rimsky – Korsakov  Still influenced by German composers  ENGLAND  Edward Elgar (1857-1934) – first nationally recognized English composer in more than 200 years  Not influenced by folksong in the beginning  20th century nationalism
    6. 6. +The Calm Before the Storm - Impressionism “Bouquet de soleils” Claude Monet 1881 •First applied to a school of French painting – Monet •Later used to describe the art, literature, and music of that period •Claude Debussy •No religious affiliations •Aesthetics •Based in social and political values •Working class vision •An association with women •Escape
    7. 7. +Into a New Century- Fauvism, Cubism, Dadaism “Vase of Sunflowers” Henri Matisse 1898-99 •Anti – Impressionist •Dadaism •Anti-war •Anti – Bourgeois •Anarchist •Eric Satie •Worked with Picasso •Set the stage for a Neo- Classical movement •Satirical in nature •The music itself was spare, dry, witty, repetitive..
    8. 8. + Igor Stravinsky  Highly controversial choreography by Nijinsky  Primitivism “A pastorale of the prehistoric world”  Rhythm and orchestral effects were new and totally novel  Subject matter – an adolescent girl who has been chosen to sacrifice herself to death  The premiere in 1913 caused a riot Riots at the Ballet VIDEO LINK
    9. 9. + John Cage  Raised the question about the purpose and nature of music  Complex musical relationships  Music is seemingly random – Serialism  Music is not expected to communicate feelings or meanings  Influenced by Eastern philosophies and principals Post-war avant-garde VIDEO LINK
    10. 10. + TODAY  Film  Television  Internet / Web 2.0  iTunes  Accessibility TECHNOLOGY “CLASSICAL” MUSIC?IS  Do film scores represent late 20th/early 21st century composition?  Exposure through TV commercials  Met HD simulcasts – do we need to go into the opera/symphony hall anymore? VIDEO 1 LINK VIDEO 2 LINK
    11. 11. + SOURCES Grout, D. J. (1960). A history of Western music. New York: Norton. Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online, usic/07353 (accessed November 5, 2010).